We are not just ourselves anymore. Each one of us has a new, statistical self living in databases around the world. It’s those selves, uniquely identified bundles of behavior, that marketers target and companies try to reach. These are remarkable, distributed portraits of what we read, what we eat, and where we sleep. When it comes to our statistical selves, the difference between the NSA and private companies such as Facebook or Google or Amazon.com lies in what the government can do with the data it collects. It’s building that giant index so that, if it needs to, it can actively cross the line between your statistical self and your real, physical self. It’s the difference between “would you like to receive local coupons for businesses you love?” and “why is there a van in front of our house?”
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